We’re sitting around the pool when my cell rings and the Vice President of the Coronation Centennial Committee inquires where I am and I say Bel Air, California and the VP stuns me with the thrilling news that I have been chosen to be the keynote speaker to celebrate the 100th anniversary of my hometown, Coronation, Alberta, Canada.
It would be a singular honor for the town to have me address the expected throngs — present and past lovers of Coronation. 3,000+ guests are expected. The town will be aswarm with visitors. Many are aware that I have written short stories about Coronation.
Additionally, countless old friends are eager to hear me —
Hometown Boy goes to Hollywood,
Crack open another Molsons. Summers is coming!
I discover many of my old friends are already celebrating my triumphant return and are drunk out of their skulls. One has lost a thumb, others have misplaced combines and cattle.
I ask the VP if she has read any of my short stories or novels and she says nope, far too many other things to do such as snare gophers, pluck geese and toil on the Coronation Centennial Committee. But she snort-giggles that she knows I write “real funny stuff.”
This lady confides that the government has allocated “quite a bit of money” for the centennial because small Canadian towns are dying. Coronation’s population is under 1,000 and the village is shrinking like a dick in dry ice. [Note to Mrs. Norton, Coronation’s best-ever English teacher. How do you like them apples for a simile? Wink.]
Anyway, the Canadian & Albertan governments have vowed to help create a major event for the town’s centennial and are pouring money into the upcoming celebration. The world needs to realize the beauty and magic of hamlets in one of the greatest countries in the world. Also, politicians are desperate for rural votes.
The VP explains that they’ll be oodles of funding for my trip but the committee can’t fly everyone (read: anyone) in from out of the country….
BUT since Kate, my wife, and I go to Edmonton every year to look after our rental property in Edmonton, could we arrange to be in Alberta mid-July? Pretty please. Oh, we want you to come so, so badly, Jaron, great writer, wit and raconteur that you are.
My wife of 29 years and assorted months, wants to know why we have to change our travel plans.
I patiently explain that we are the recipients of a great honor and the town has already billed me as an astonishing humor writer and speaker and everyone is waiting to laugh — Kate whines, “But it’s our 30th anniversary — I don’t want to share you with the town. Darling.”
We can’t be selfish, I tell her, after all the town only has a centennial every 100 years, and she must learn to share me with the world. People have 30th anniversaries all over the place, no big deal. But a centennial? My God! Ignite the fireworks!
Many jailed for public drunkenness
in anticipation of our arrival.
We fly to Edmonton early, ruining our anniversary, and the phone rings, and it’s a fresh vice president from the Coronation Centennial Committee. This VP is most excited to talk to me and everyone (they are hiring small boys to poster the town with my upcoming talk schedule) is gearing up for my return and did I rent a car yet?
I say that yes, we rented a car and then I learn if only I had filled out the requisition papers, the town would pay for the car instantly; now that deal is off the table, however, since I had to get the car anyway, do I mind absorbing the charges?
I offer to return the car and re-rent it but that’s against the rules. The rules have been developed and certified by the Coronation Centennial Committee composed of approximately 600 residents (includes 595 VPs), all of whom are on a generous stipend with expense accounts.
(Another 400 residents are toddlers and too young to be VPs. However they each have mini-expense accounts.) The remaining five locals are under house arrest for “minor” crimes (incest, arson and hunting beaver without a license).
I agree to pay for our car and Kate rolls her eyes and re-fumes.
I ask the VP if the town will pay for gas as it’s a 500-mile round trip.
She apologizes…there would normally be no problem but in order to have Coronation front the gas, we would need a requisition order for the vehicle because the town can’t “give away fuel” as it costs over six dollars a gallon and there has to be some restrictions.
(This VP’s grandmother was one of my teachers who perpetually insisted that I would amount to nothing. Yet another reason for me to show up and prove my old teacher was dead wrong when I bring the town to its knees with mirth and laughter.)
I learn that the Coronation Centennial Committee was originally called “The Committee to Bring Some Kind of Commerce to Coronation Before We File Bankruptcy.” Alas, my beloved hometown is a heartbeat from being broke. I may help save it.
“Big deal,” says Kate.
Three days later the tattered requisition forms for air travel and car rental arrive. My name is correct but the address has been changed from Canada to Lower Mongolia. This understandable error, which was no one’s fault, may explain why my mail went astray.
More drunkenness and
several exhibitionists arrested.
The latest centennial VP tells us where we will be staying once we drive to Coronation.
We have three divine choices, one of which is bedbug free. The local paper is going to do a front page story of me. But I have to write it — so I throw the following together:
Coronation Review – July 28, 2011 / volume 100 No. 30
The story took second billing to
a $600,000 Sewer Project.
To be continued….
And here is my latest novel. It’s about a religious nut. Me.
(You should be 18 to read it.)